Health Ministry to push healthy diets for infants
US$5M nutrition programme to be launched this year

Guyana Chronicle
January 5, 2003

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THE Ministry of Health will soon be introducing an additional component to its Nutritional Programme to help educate parents and finance healthy diets for infants.

The additional aspect will see the Ministry providing vouchers and possibly food items at health centres to mothers and relatives of children between ages of six to twenty-four months old, since the Ministry is encouraging absolute breast feeding for babies from birth to six months old. The new programme will complement the vibrant breast-feeding campaign the sector re-launched recently.

According to Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, the programme will be funded from a US$5M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to be executed over the next four years.

The loan is expected to be disbursed early this year, as the requirements have already been met and the necessary mechanisms installed, he said.

The additional element involves providing food and educating parents about the right choice of food. It will not focus solely on the health of children, as pregnant women will be included. Health Centres will also provide hemoglobin tests, teach women about obesity and other nutrition related illnesses during their attendance at antenatal clinics.

"What we have discovered in Guyana is that once a child is making the transition from breast feed to food, parents and care givers often make the wrong choices of food for that child. This programme will help them to make the right choice and where they cannot afford it, help them also," Minister Ramsammy said.

Unlike other independently funded programmes, this one will not be concluded at the end of the four-year period over which the loan covers. Government will be taking responsibility for financing its continuation, Minister Ramsammy said.

The introduction of this programme is in keeping with the Administration's commitment to a healthy nation and bringing health care to its people.

The health sector has been in the past burdened with nutrition-related problems that could be prevented with healthy eating habits. Hence, this is an attempt to complement existing programmes such as the anti-obesity campaign, the breast-feeding campaign and other programmes being executed by the Food and Nutrition Department at the Ministry of Health and in the long-term see the reduction in poor nutrition illness, especially malnutrition.

Progress has been made in the Health Sectors under the prudent management of the present Administration.

Health indicators show a healthier nation with fewer mothers and infants dying, more children immunised and fewer children malnourished, resulting in an overall healthier population.

Increased spending and other developments undertaken by Government have resulted in a decreased infant morality rate from 48 per 1,000 live births in 1992 to 24 per 1,000 live births in 2001.

The maternal mortality rate, which had reached 34 per 10,000 deliveries, has now been reduced to 11 according to statistics for 2001.

More than 90 per cent of children countrywide have been immunised and the menu of vaccines has been expanded to offer yellow fever, hepatitis B and influenza hemophilus vaccines, among others the largest menu of vaccines being offered in the Americas. (Government Information Agency - GINA).

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